I've just returned from attending the second Google Zeitgeist conference. It's a surreal experience considering that its an event in which you rub shoulders with key executives, politicians and leaders. Last year I shook hands with Sergey and Larry whereas this year I sipped my coffee while Stephen Hawking passed by. Another personal highlight was having lunch with Natalie Massenet, founder of Net-a-Porter, and Babs Rangaiah, VP Global Marcomms at Unilever.
The content was top notch with a high level established from the get-go with a keynote by George Osborne. I was extremely impressed by the vision and detail of the UK's strategic initiatives around technology (to be honest, I was expecting a high level talk in which nothing new gets said, so I confess to being blown away). Actually it was *my* mistake expecting to be disappointed, as Osborne is a young man himself, so he is of the "Facebook generation". This touches on another theme at the conference - the fact that 60% of the world's population is under 30 (and what are industry leaders doing about this?).
On the topic of youth, a panel of "kids" was freakishly refreshing and awesome considering 2 out of the 3 kids were from Cape Town (one chap invented the Drybath gel allowing one to clean without water, an essential need in impoverished Africa with limited water supply). He charmingly asked the audience for $100k (and I'm sure he got it tenfold) so he could run a trial needed for a $8 M rollout. He apparently typed his 8,000 word business plan on his mobile!
Many a joke was made about DSK and much entertainment was had in a session run by Benjamin Zander, conductor of the Boston Philharmonic Orchestra, which saw the entire room sing Happy Birthday to a poor guy called Stan, proving the power of possibility.
I was impressed with some of the newest Google products and chuckled frequently to myself at the similarities having attending several of the Microsoft Strategic Account Summits in Redmond, Washington. The similarities between the 2 companies are uncanny. Seems to me that Google is imitating Apple more than Microsoft if any comparisons in product should be made. I'm slowly becoming open to this Android business...
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